Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


taking shape. One of its earliest manifestations was the rise to
consciousness of the spirit of nationality in various parts of
Europe. In the Middle Ages, men had found themselves as
citizens of towns: now they began to discover that a wider
citizenship might mean an enlargement and not a diminution of
personality. Intimately connected with the growth of national
feeling was the emergence of true literature in the languages
hitherto regarded as vulgar and incapable of literary use.
Even before the revival of learning had come to its height,
Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio in Italy, Chaucer and Wycliffe
in England, had shown the immense possibilities of the verna-
cular tongues. In physical science, again, there was active
research for the first time for many centuries, beginning- with
Roger Bacon and culminating in the epoch-making work of

It was the same spirit that was at work in both cases ; but the
results were very different. In the one, the re-naissance of the
past: in the other, the naissance of the future. Not that the two
movements were so sharply marked off from each other as this
way of contrasting them might seem to imply. On the one hand,
the desire for a revival of the better past was originally only
another form of the desire for a better future. The aim of the
men who sought to reproduce the life of the ancient world was
really to reconstruct their own world so as to appropriate all that
was fine in past achievement. And, on the other hand, those who
felt most strongly the creative impulse that could not be content
till it had embodied itself in new artistic and institutional forms
undoubtedly derived both inspiration and guidance from ancient
sources. Nevertheless, there was an inherent antagonism between
them even from the beginning ; and it grew deeper as the renais-
sance gradually lost its first vigour and passed into the established
order of things. It was easier for most men to find satisfaction in
the resurrection of old times than to venture on untried ways of
thought and action and bring new times into being ; but for that
very reason the modes of social life derived from antiquity became
in course of time as great an obstacle to progress as the ones they
had displaced. Those for whom the golden age lay not behind
but in front were compelled by the quickening spirit which had
produced the renaissance to become the critics of it, and to strive
to pass beyond it.